By Susan Call

John Greenway statue

The John Greenway statue at the U.S. Capitol (or rather, a replica at the Arizona Historical Society Museum here in Tucson.)

In January the Arizona Daily Star announced in an article by Phil Villarreal that a sculptor in Sonoita was making a statue of Barry Goldwater. This would be placed in the Statuary Hall of the Capitol in Washington, D. C., replacing the statue there of John Greenway, Arizona businessman, engineer, miner and rancher.

Shortly thereafter, the Nogales International newspaper article by Marion Vendituoli announced, “Local sculptor to create statue of Sen. Barry Goldwater for U.S. Capitol,” and stated that this would replace the statue of Isabella Greenway. Apparently the excitement of having a local artist create a new statue overcame the need for accuracy, since the statue currently representing Arizona is that of John Greenway, Isabella’s husband. (An interesting aside is that a second statue in Statuary Hall in Washington is of a relative of John Greenway, Dr. Ephraim McDowell, placed there by the state of  Kentucky.)

And, while each state has two statues in our nation’s Statuary Hall, Arizona’s other statue depicts Padre Eusebio Kino. It appears that the Arizona Historical Advisory Commission authorized the new statue, never considering that the statue of John Greenway really holds far more significance for Arizona than Kino.

The history of Arizona used to include a short mnemonic for school students to help them remember facts about our state:  the five Cs, which represent Cattle, Citrus, Copper, Cactus and Climate (or Culture?). A quick review shows that John Greenway easily represents several of these, although Padre Kino could be said to represent maybe only one—culture? Perhaps his claim to fame in Arizona was the conversion of the natives and the creation of the mission churches? At any rate, it seems surprising that neither Kino nor Greenway was mentioned among its famous residents in the recent hoopla of celebrations for Arizona’s centennial.

Besides using the argument that Greenway is a better representative of Arizona than Kino (or maybe even Barry Goldwater), the statue in and of itself is a true work of art by a well-known sculptor. The statue, a duplicate of which graces the entrance to the Arizona Historical Society Museum near the university, was made by sculptor Gutzon Borglum, more noted for the sculptures on Mount Rushmore. Of course, even if Greenway should no longer be in the Capitol, this famous Arizonan will still be in Tucson since the statue here is a second casting of the sculpture.

Another interesting note about Greenway’s statue is that it is probably the first statue in the Capitol that shows the person in natural dress, as opposed to the more classical representation of hero as a Roman warrior, as was previously thought more dignified,  wearing some sort of toga-like drapery.

John Greenway is a fitting representative of Arizona, because as a mining engineer he developed the copper mine at Ajo which led to the building of the town there. The existence of the copper mines in Arizona was a significant factor in the admission of our state into the union. Copper was once very important to Arizona’s, and the nation’s, economy.

General Greenway was a friend of Teddy Roosevelt, and had served as one of the Rough Riders in the Spanish American War. Besides maintaining connections to the veterans of that war, he became interested in state politics. He was very active in promoting a dam on the Colorado River, which finally came to fruition (in a different form and location) after his death in 1926, thanks to the groundwork he had laid.

The state Democrat party tried to interest him in running against George W. P. Hunt, Arizona’s first governor, but Greenway felt he could contribute more to the state in other areas. It is interesting to speculate what else he might have done for our state had it not been for his untimely death after surgery to remove a gallstone.

Isabella Greenway

Isabella Greenway, circa 1933.

Greenway’s wife, Isabella, was a cousin of Eleanor Roosevelt, and they had been friends since both were in high school. Partly through this association, Isabella became involved in politics; certainly after John’s death, she actively worked to get FDR elected in Arizona and she ultimately became a member of the Democrat National Committee. We need to remember that when Arizona was admitted as a state, its constitution gave women the right to vote, so women had been active in this state and voting since the beginning.

Isabella is of course well known here in Tucson because of her major legacy of the Arizona Inn, one of the country’s premier resorts, which she created in 1930. But she ought to be honored as Arizona’s first female representative to Congress, back in the period when the population was low enough to allow only one at-large representative.

She worked tirelessly to serve her constituents, in spite of having a young child at the time. She was initially appointed in 1933 to complete the term of Lewis Douglas who had been appointed by FDR to serve his administration. After filling the remainder of Douglas’ term, she ran again and was re-elected in 1934 for a full term. Her career in politics was distinguished although short, and she made quite an impact for veterans, social security, and economic equality. Her popularity and fame were such that some party leaders were urging her to run for governor, or at least senator. People were disappointed when she declined to run again, instead returning to Tucson, to her family and her beloved Arizona Inn.

The career of Isabella included owning and operating an airline, the Los Angeles-based Gilpin Airlines. There is much more to be known about this remarkable woman. She died in Tucson in 1953, and is buried in Kentucky. Certainly, Tucson should be supportive of  having a statue of Isabella Greenway representing our state in the nation’s Capitol. Maybe if the idea of Baja Arizona catches on, we could accomplish just that.

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